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Maintaining Best Practices Doesn’t Have to Be Difficult.

After a major tech implementation, a center of excellence is the obvious next step. Whether the challenges you built the system to address change or you find a different way of addressing them, your training materials and workflows will always need to adapt, and centralizing process management, expertise, training, and materials from across your organization will take a dedicated team.

Successful CoEs include people and processes: an SME team that includes the product owner, program leads, and technical leads; and all the stored digital information your end users will need. But how do you maximize the usefulness of both your people and your processes? And how do you ensure your CoE is used? Working according to a plan can help you keep your center of excellence humming along.

Begin Building Your Center of Excellence with the Right People and Materials.

A center of excellence depends on assembling the right people and the right materials to work well. When building your CoE, ensuring you make the right choices is the first thing to consider.

1. The people

Once your technology instance is up and running, you will want to immediately identify resources and agree on the responsibilities of each member. These responsibilities will vary based on the product, team size, and purpose of using the technology, but should involve the product owner, experts on both technical and program areas, and other individuals with relevant information. Think about who your braintrust is for the piece of technology and then make sure everyone from it is involved.

The leaders and subject matter experts will manage the technology roadmap, support model, enablement strategy and training opportunities, and share best practices based on their knowledge. These individuals provide governance, manage funding, train & enable, allocate resources, manage priorities, and handle issues.

2. The collateral

One consideration is what actual materials to include. Most likely you already have a set of training materials put together during the implementation. That’s a good place to start, but do you need to include everything? Or is there a narrower selection of relevant materials you can include? If you feel any resource could potentially help someone improve, repair, or evolve the system later, it’s best to keep that information in this portal. If not, leave it off—it’s just one more thing you’ll need to keep updated.

The other consideration to make is how to host the CoE. You’ll need a digital platform that can allow your end users to access content, training, and other support resources themselves, without having to ask for help. An intranet site, like a SharePoint page, or any other internal portal used by the company, is usually best: You have flexibility to present the information in whatever way is most useful, plus your team should be familiar with the interface already.

Finally, as you set up your interface, consider how you can minimize the number of clicks a user needs to get to their goal. Your end users will be less patient and less tech-savvy than you expect, so design as frictionless an experience as you can in order to keep them on board.

Keep Your Center of Excellence Updated

Once the people are identified and the information is stored, maintaining the functionality, integrity, and processes for your CoE is the next step. The entire purpose of a CoE is to give your team access to useful, relevant content. If they begin noticing that the content they’re accessing is outdated, or that they can’t find answers to their questions, they’ll stop using the CoE—putting you right back where you started.

1. Systematize your updates.

When changes happen, updating the CoE should be a standardized part of the process. Have your team update all internal process checklists and designs to include revisions to digital materials upon major changes or enhancements is key. You should be storing your build design documentation in your CoE, so make sure those processes get updated too.

Beyond the major technical changes, other shifts can also affect the usefulness of your center of excellence. A new release of your tool may lead to minor changes in the interface of the system your CoE is focusing on. If so, a screenshot that used to be clarifying can become confusing. Keep abreast of releases and make a list of what needs to be updated every time. And while we’re on the subject of small changes that can have big impacts: Keep your links up to date!

2. Listen to your users.

The people running your center of excellence should remain in constant touch with the people using it. Though you may think you know what your users want, letting a disconnect arise can hurt usage of the CoE. We suggest periodically collecting feedback via surveys of users. In addition, including a link in your digital content repository can allow users to post feedback quickly when they have it—a request for a new training video, or a question on usage, or a broken link to flag.

Of course, the best way to see if your people are using the CoE is to track usage directly. If you’re using SharePoint or a similar system, you’ll likely be able to see how often your materials are being viewed. This will let you drop support for anything that’s gone six months without clicks, but it can also give you a sense of where your users have the most questions, giving you ideas for new training sessions or materials.

You Don’t Have to Build Your Center of Excellence Alone

A reliable center of excellence is a cornerstone of your new technology’s ongoing success. By identifying the right people and documents to keep things running smoothly and ensuring all your users have the reference materials they need, your organization will continue to see the value in their investment in the new system. However, even effective organizations can sometimes use some guidance in setting up their CoE.

Spaulding Ridge has helped a wide range of organizations establish CoEs, from providing strategic input to running the CoE ourselves. If you’re curious about how to get your CoE off the ground, or if you want to know how we can help, reach out to us.

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